Public Spaces, Now More Than Ever

Is the whole plummeting economy thing forcing you take stock of what you truly value in life? Yep, us too. And we’ll take a wild guess that accessible, beautiful public spaces are on the short list for you as well.

23885624_418f92a845_m.jpgPhoto by Petra and Baby Z via Flickr.

Which is why, today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re featuring a post from Making Places, the blog of our friends over at Project for Public Spaces. In it, they argue for continuing investment in parks and similar community resources, especially in these parlous times:

[A] glance at the news in any town or state can instill fears for fate of public spaces.

The economic crisis has clobbered state and local governments as well as philanthropic institutions, resulting in unprecedented threats to public spaces. In city after city, plans are being drawn to close libraries, reduce hours at museums, cut back on park maintenance, shelve community revitalization plans. There are calls to sell off schools, recreational facilities, even airports to the highest bidder.

That’s exactly the wrong thing to do right now. People depend on these public assets more than ever. In a crisis like this, we need to strengthen the public realm, not eviscerate it.

In Phoenix, the new light rail system has raised awareness of the importance of public amenities and community involvement in that city. Member blog Light Rail AZ writes about a new ad campaign that’s promoting Phoenix as "the urban heart of Arizona," adding this:

Let’s face it, communities are changed by people. People that are part of the community, the lifestyle. It starts by shopping local, by bringing unique developments and cool projects instead
of just the chain stores and billboard material. I am really looking
forward to watching what the new advertising partnership has to offer.
I wonder how many of the advertising executives have been on the light
rail, have decided to live downtown or to help participate in its
growth by working with people in the communities? Do they know these
people can help them create the vibrancy in the neighborhoods that will
help make a tourist’s stay more enjoyable?

Plus: Preserving Savannah Neighborhoods looks to the example of Charleston, where some one-way streets have been improved by being converted to two-way, and Your Town Alabama highlights the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, which runs from Mobile, AL, all the way to Canada.

  • Larry Littlefield

    New York State has repeatedly taken away “dedicated” open space funding.

    http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/parks/20090303/14/2845

    Remember Malcolm Smith’s “fiscally responsible” plan to balance the budget? You don’t really them announcing who the losers would be, do you?

    So where did the money go? Based on the overall level of spending in NY relative to other places, it was used for things that really matter to those that really matter: debts, pensions, retiree health care, the nation’s most extravagant Medicaid benefits for senior citizens, and massive staffing levels in the public schools in the portion of the state outside NYC.

    As those costs continue to explode, expect the public realm in general — and not just the transit system — to go downhill. After all, the serfs rely on public parks, libaries and transit, not the executive class and the placard holding, suburban living political class.

    Maybe we should storm politician beach.

  • LN

    I don’t think we can call central park a PUBLIC open space anymore, it’s been privatized. The Central Park Conservancy makes all the rules there, including sheep’s meadow (pictured). Anyone who has tried to sit on the grass after dusk, or ride a bike through the park after 1am has been thrown out or ticketed.

  • Rhywun

    LN, I think all parks close at 1AM. Being “public space” does not necessarily mean you can (or should) access it at all times.

  • LN

    The prospect park and central park loops are roads, maintained by the DOT and safe passageways to other parts of the city for cyclists. As such they should be open without threat of bogus ticketing by cops who have been told to do so by unelected representatives who work for private agencies such as the CP or PP conservancies.

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